This was the manifesto drawn up by the original Byline.com team when it first launched in 2015. Some has changed since the advent of Byline Festival, Byline Times and Byline.TV – but not the essence of it
Independence: Don’t Shoot the Messenger
Too often, proprietors and advertisers divert journalists from doing their real job: reporting the truth.
In today’s media, editorial teams often trim content to fit their paymaster’s ideological or commercial agenda. Sponsored content and native advertising smuggle PR in through the back door. Worse still, journalists self-censor because they know what will and will not be commissioned.
Byline is different. We don’t need advertising traffic. Instead, we help journalists to get funded directly by the public, so that they can report the stories that need to be told.
Opinion: To Each Their Own
Byline is a platform for news.
Good reporting of reality should trump ideology, but no journalist is completely objective. We accept that. Instead of pretending complete impartiality, we hope to counter it by encompassing a wide diversity of views.
When it comes to opinion pieces, we also encourage our writers to declare their bias. And argue for it. And sometimes change their minds.
But Facts Matter
Though we accept absolute truth isn’t reachable, aspiring to accuracy is still important. You can have your own opinions but you can’t have your own facts. We aim to be an evidence-based site – though one always open to new evidence.
Though we don’t editorialise, we believe sustained relationships with a variety of journalists will create a healthy equilibrium of fact-checking and debate.
A PlatformNot a Paper
Byline is a platform, not a paper. This means we don’t edit our journalists, or tell them what their opinion should be. We have no ‘style guide’. And we don’t commission stories, either – the public does. If anything, we will occasionally step in and try to arbitrate. But ultimately the people who hold our writers to account are you, their readers.
Democratic, Pluralist Media
The news media industry is becoming a sham. 90% of US news media is run by just six companies, down from 50 in 1983. 80% of the British press is owned by a club of five men, most of whom don’t even pay tax in the UK. No wonder the papers aggressively support politicians who oppose tougher regulations on tax avoidance and media ownership.
Can we trust the press to fight for the public interest? We don’t believe we can. So we want to cut out the cronies and bring you reader-funded news. We aren’t anti-business, we’re anti-oligopoly.
If there’s a journalist prepared to write it and a reader prepared to pay for it, it can exist on Byline – regardless of who it annoys. By definition, that’s what a free press should be.
The journalist is accountable to the paying reader. When you pay, you have the right to directly ask questions to the journalist in a dedicated Byline ‘Supporters’ Café’ And ultimately, you of course have the right to stop paying the journalist.
We are accountable to you as well. Our income comes from a commission on your pledge, rather than advertising. If you don’t see journalism you’re willing to back, we won’t see a penny from you.
Believe in the Crowd
Participation is at the heart of Byline. When you pay a journalist, you are paying for engagement, rather than the article itself. We don’t paywall or own the copyright – articles are open access and the rights reside with the writers.
All writing is a form of collaboration, and we believe journalists will welcome your participation, just as much as you welcome yours. A crowd of Byline readers may not just fund a journalist – they may also provide the journalist with helpful information and fact-checking. You are more than a consumer: you are an active contributor to a vital pillar of civil society.
We believe good reportage and writing is a skill which takes time and support. But we also believe that ‘journalism’ began in the diaries and ‘journals’ of ordinary citizens. Bearing witness is not just a profession, but also a civic duty and human right. Our aim is to break down all the barriers between readers and writers, and provide an open platform where new or occasional journalists can find their voice and audience.
We aren’t the gatekeepers of knowledge and information: we are the gate openers.